Fair weather has not brought fair play to the Maroons. Chicago (13–6–1) continued a tumultuous mid-season after splitting a double-header Monday at Wheaton (14–10), posting a dominating 5–0 shutout in game one only to lose a close second game by a score of 4–5.
Inconsistency has plagued the Maroons ever since their return from Florida. Their impressive 10–2 record over spring break was good enough to earn a 21st national ranking, but the Maroons have struggled, going 3–4–1 since the break.
“We haven’t performed with the same consistency in all facets of the game since our return from our spring trip games, and we haven’t been able to perform for 14 full innings,” coach Ruth Kmak said. “Our pitching, particularly second-year Sarah Neuhaus and first-year Kim Cygan, really stepped up against Wheaton. Behind Sarah, our offense executed hit-and-runs and steals well and we were able to score somewhat consistently through the fifth inning. Unfortunately, in game two, our execution was not as consistent offensively and we were not able to push in the runs we needed.”
The Maroons dominated in game one. Second-year Julia Schneider hit a single to left field in the first inning and was brought in by fourth-year Kathleen Duffy, giving the Maroons an early one-run lead. This proved to be the decisive run as the Maroons held Wheaton to just four hits with no runs, while only committing two errors.
However, the second game was a different story.
While committing no errors, the Maroons’ defense was lacking as they gave up eight hits. The game appeared to be much of the same as Chicago went up 2–0 in the top of the first, but Wheaton quickly responded by scoring three runs in the bottom of the first. The Maroons seemed unable to respond.
“In the second game against Wheaton, they tallied three runs on us in the first inning, and we never seemed to get back from that deficit throughout the game,” second-year Liz Payonk said. “A big contributor to that was the fact that we have so much confidence in our offense, so there was never a point where there was a huge urgency to get ahead. Our offense has been excellent this year, and it is very exciting. However, when our hitting is there, we sometimes let up on our defense.”
The offense for the Maroons has indeed been strong this season, and provided one of the major highlights of the doubleheader.
Kathleen Duffy recorded four RBIs over the trip, bringing her career total to 88 and making her the all-time RBI leader at the University of Chicago.
Unfortunately, the Maroons’ defense is not playing up to the level of the offense. Still, the Maroons know exactly what they need to do to make this season a success.
“Our goal has to be to play complete games,” Kmak said. “Our pitching needs to remain strong while our defense continues to improve and our offense continues to work together. No matter what, we need to find a way to win games if we expect to make the NCAA Tournament.”